Using Special Ops Testing and Grading Methods for Athletics: Lacrosse

NCAA lacrosse game.

Using Special Ops Testing and Grading Methods for Athletics: Lacrosse

A recent training opportunity with a high school baseball team allowed me to develop a challenge week with their coach. Not only was the challenge test a team building gut check, but it had a system built in that helped calculate overall winners. A local lacrosse coach wanted to do the same thing and requested a team building test with an objective grading system to grade the players. The coach liked the grading system used by Special Ops candidates. He states: Stew, 

I like the fitness test and team building event you did recently with a high school baseball team.  I think I need different testing elements for lacrosse players; can you design a system for us to test, grade, and challenge them physically and mentally?

This system is based off of the same one we have used for decades within the special ops community to determine a total score in a physical screening test. This allows for the selection board to determine who has the overall best score as well as the winners in individual events. For instance, the Navy SEAL candidate screening test we use for Navy SEAL candidates is as follows: Navy SEAL Physical Screening Test (PST)

  • 500 yd swim
    • 10 minute break to prepare for next portion of the test.
  • Pushups two minutes
    • Rest two minutes.
  • Sit-ups two minutes
    • Rest two minutes.
  • Pull-ups max reps
    • 10 minute break to prepare for next portion of the test.
  • 1.5 mile timed run

The test is graded the following way: Add the run and swim times together in seconds. For example, if you clock an 8:20 minute swim and a nine minute run, the total is 17:40 minutes or 1040 seconds. Then you add the pushups, sit-ups, and pull-ups, five times, together. Say you get 80 on each of the sit-ups and pushups and 15 pull-ups, you'd have 75 points. All told, 80+80+75 adds up to 235 points.  (Pull-ups earn five points per rep.) Then subtract the 235 points from 1040 to equal 805 total points.  Run and swim faster and you'll get a lower cardio number. Do more PT reps to get a higher PT number.  Now, how do you do this for high school athletics and make it useful for coaches? The lacrosse coach wanted to break the test into three different days where we would evaluate strength and muscle stamina of core, grip, full-body, speed, agility, and have a gut check endurance day on the last day.  Here are the exercises we came up with and the justifications for each and why they work for a lacrosse player:

Day 1:  Strength and Power

Sample scores:


Reps / Distance




100 (5pts / rep)

Bench Press (1 rep max wt)


200 (1pt / lbs)

Hanging KneeUps

65 (1 min)

65 (1pt / rep)

Power Cleans (1 rep max wt)


200 (1pt / lb)



565 points

  • Pull-ups – Pulling your own weight is a tough exercise for high school students. It tests pulling strength, muscle stamina, and grip.  You get 5 points per rep.
  • Bench Press (one rep max) – You have been lifting in the off-season, so let's see what you can do. You could also use pushups as the test for 1 minute. Or you could use 100% bodyweight bench press with more experienced lifters but give 5 points per rep like pull-ups.
  • Hanging Knee-Ups – From a pull-up bar, hang and bring your knees up so your thighs are parallel from the floor.  Straighten your hips so your knees move through the 90 degree angle for as many reps as you can in 1 minute.  This exercise tests grip, hip and abdominal strength, and stamina.
  • Hang Cleans (one rep max) – We selected this movement and heavier weight to work each player's full-body mechanics using legs and quick movement of the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. This is a universal athletic lift.

Add up your total repetitions and the winner of Day 1 will be the one with the highest score.

Day 2: Speed and Agility

Sample scores:




40yd sprint


50 (1pt / 1/10 sec)

Pro agility test


45 (1pt / 1/10 sec)

6 x 50yd shuttle run


500 (1pt / 1/10 sec)

Illinois Agility Test


155 (1pt / 1/10 sec)



780 points

After a good team warmup, start the speed and agility testing day.

  • 40yd sprint – Classic speed test.
  • Pro Agility Shuttle Run – Short 5-10-5 yard that lasts mere seconds but tests speed and change of direction agility.
  • Illinois Agility Test (embedded) – Another classic military and police agility test. You can also do the 120 ft or 120yd shuttle runs. This is a great test of the foot speed required in lacrosse.

6 x 50yd shuttle run – This is a challenging longer distance shuttle run that usually runs 50-60 seconds long. Tests longer full speed ability. Run it twice for more of a challenge with a one minute recovery time. Take the best score of the player.  * NOTE - It is best to give ten points per second or a point or TENTH of a second for this test to get more points to match up well with the endurance challenge.

Day 3: Endurance (Devil's Mile)

Option #1

This event can be a variety of longer events. You want to test their ability to do something at a moderately high intensity for 20-30 minutes. This can be a 3-4 mile timed run, a long suicide drill using every 5 yd line on a football field, or more. There are many other options to include such as swimming, biking, and elliptical machines for distance. We decided to push the reigning champions of their league a little more and teach them some skills to strategize, pace, and carry and crawl a fairly long distance. Yes, this is called the Devil's Mile. A workout used by many special ops candidates preparing for these actual events in their selection programs.

The Devil's Mile is measured by seconds. This particular version takes roughly 30 minutes with the winner typically breaking 28 minutes and the last person clocking about 33-35 minutes depending on the group's condition. These exercises must be taught properly to avoid improper form and injury. If you take out the 1/4 mile runs in between events, you can make this event 8-10 minutes shorter in time. 


Total Time

¼ mile Fireman carry (switch partners as needed)

30 minutes

¼ mile run

¼ mile Bear crawl

¼ mile run

¼ mile Walking lunges

¼ mile run

¼ mile Burpee jump or Burpee forward roll (combo)

¼ mile run

1800 points

In the above exapmle, one second equals one point. Therefore, with a time of 30 minutes, the player has scored 1800 points.

  • Fireman Carry – This is a tough exercise that tests core and leg strength and ability to follow instructions of proper procedures. Start off with the fireman carry. Teach the players how to carry a partner of equal or near bodyweight, then they each take turns carrying each other around a track. Ideally, each partner will get 200m each, but a stronger partner may carry more if desired. Teach the partner being carried how to act like a good backpack by supporting the lower back and not sitting like dead weight.
  • Quarter Mile Runs – If you are a good runner, this is a place to make up time and run the quarter mile as fast as you can or at a solid pace so you can recover from the previous event.
  • Bear Crawls – This is a full-body movement exercise that challenges the legs, core, and shoulder girdle. The goal is to just keep moving even if you have to crawl on all fours like a baby. Just keep moving. This one is tough. Keep most of the weight on your legs instead of your shoulders or arms.
  • Walking Lunges – Walk around the track using big steps and lunging so your hips are even with your front knee in the down position. Stretch as needed but just keep moving. This test challenges leg stamina but it's a good time for players to catch their breath.
  • Burpee Jump or Forward Roll – Every movement should move in the forward direction. Drop down into a pushup position with your chest to the ground, hop up and jump or roll forward covering as much ground each time as you can. This is a full-body exercise and is very tiring for both the upper and lower body and lungs. 

Finish with the last ¼ mile run.

Gut Check Complete!


Add the points from Day 2 and Day 3 together. This will be a big number.

  • Day 2 + Day 3 = 2580 pts
  • - Day 1 = 565 pts

Subtract Day 1 from Day 2 and Day 3 to get 2015 pts. Lowest points wins.

Option #2

The goal of this endurance event is to have a 20-30 minute challenge that will keep players moving constantly. Keep score by adding the seconds of the event.  Here are a few options for you to consider:

  • The endurance event can be as simple as a 3-4 mile timed run
  • Multiple half mile intervals with rest equal to the player's half mile time for five sets.  Add up run and rest times for all five sets.
  • Team Obstacle Course Race

You are only limited by your imagination, but keep the parameters of the test within your team's capabilities. This method of grading gives the coach a ranking system of total physical ability as well as individual event winners. Also, the test is a way to get the team together, compete with each other, and build some bonding over hard work and effort. You will definitely be able to tell who has been properly preparing for the upcoming season and help them see their weaknesses. Now in the next few months, prior to the season start, they can focus on these weaknesses and be ready for opening day. 

Enjoy the test!

Stew Smith writes about fitness and acing physical fitness tests and is the founder of Heroes of Tomorrow Fitness – a FREE local and online fitness resource for people seeking military, law enforcement, and firefighting professions and testing tactical fitness gear and equipment.

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